My sincere apologies for the delay in a new blog post. Iâ€™ve been quite busy of late with some personal matters. Also while I had prepared a nice blog about the progress race, it seems to need updating now with the changes of last week. If youâ€™ve followed the raid progress, you know that Paragon downed the 25-man heroic Ragnaros on July 19th and went on to down heroic 10-man Ragnaros on the subsequent Friday (July 22nd). So until we have more completion in the progress race (with only Paragon having cleared all of the heroic content so far), I think Iâ€™ll hold off on my post about the progress race until more of it is said and done.
So there are couple things on my mind that I wanted to write about: recent events in Norway and the 10-man/25-man difficulty debate.
The Challenge of Difficulty and Comparing the 10- and 25-man raid
This issue seems alive and well, doesnâ€™t it? I think as long as we have raiding instances that are identical in boss names, geography, and graphic design with their only variation being the scale of the fight as intended for 10 raiders or 25 raiders, we’ll feel compelled to compare. And looking at the fightâ€™s difficulty level is the primary way in which we prefer to make that comparison.
As you can imagine (or may have read for yourself), Paragon’s decision to tackle both the 25-man and 10-man heroic content (and clear it all before anyone else) made an impact and prompted some reaction (mainly on mmo-champion but also on other community sites as well). Comments seemed to range from â€˜wow, Paragon is awesome!â€™ to â€˜why did they have to take it from the 10-man guildsâ€™ to â€˜Paragon was overgeared anyway so it doesnâ€™t prove anythingâ€™.
Paragon claims they did it to gauge difficulty between the two raid group sizes. I think their decision to attempt both raid sizes was not just about gauging difficulty, however, but also about proving they can do both before anyone else (so perhaps others can’t claim down the road that Paragon’s world first was on the ‘easier’ version of the end boss?), and this appears to be a valid and understandable approach from a competitive standpoint. But when it comes to using whatâ€™s happened here to validly or objectively compare difficulty between Firelands-10 and Firelands-25 I think it becomes problematic. Without a doubt, what has happened lends important insight and perspective into the differences between the 10 and 25 versions, but as Paragon admitted, they had an advantage going into the 10-man fight having spent so much time learning Ragnaros on the 25-man versionâ€”so it could never be perfectly objective (nor am I convinced that Paragon is claiming that). They also, from what I can read, have avoided trying to suggest that they thought one fight was â€˜betterâ€™ than another one or that a 25-man raiding group is â€˜betterâ€™ than the smaller group–but like any boss fights, the mechanics will lend themselves better (or worse) with the different raid group sizes. Ahh doesn’t it feel a little bit like language (English, in this case) fails us? “Easier/harder”, “Different/different”–what best describes the difference without us falling into the trap of what’s better or worse and thus triggering these contentious responses? These are their posts:
So how do you gauge difficulty and how can you compare two completely different raid group sizes? Well I am not convinced we can ever really do this properly. Imagine, if you will, trying to compare the 800 metre and 3000 metre races in the track and field events:
- They are both running events. (Same.)
- They will require similar running gear. (Same.)
- While each race has a strategy, how and when the runner applies that strategy varies significantly. (Not same.)
- Often a runnerâ€™s training process for these events is quite different. (Not same.)
So yes, while these track and field events are both running events and both will often take place around the exact same track, how long they take, the strategies of the runners involved, and the ways in which runners prepare for these races differs greatly. Iâ€™m quite certain that most of us would not sit and have a big debate about whether the 3000m race is â€˜harderâ€™ or â€˜more importantâ€™ than the 800m race. Of course we have preferences about what we might watch or prefer to follow and if weâ€™re runners ourselves, we may think about what we could actually viably achieve and prefer doing, but Iâ€™m quite confident that a multi-page thread on â€˜the 800m vs 3000m debateâ€™ on a random runnersâ€™ Web site just would not happen (and please, donâ€™t any of you go and start a thread like this just to be cheeky). What weâ€™d probably more likely find is a discussion about whether the indoor/outdoor debate is valid or if certain training or running strategies are more valid. And if we want to get nitpicky about the â€˜but some raiders are just better than othersâ€™, well the same thing applies in running. The simple fact that I am physically capable of running 800m or even 3000m does not mean youâ€™ll be seeing me at the Olympics any time soon. There are great runners in both events, after all, and only the best will win.
So we turn back to the 10/25 raiding comparison debate. Can we actually set up an unbiased, measurable experiment to truly gauge difficulty? Can we really ever know perfectly what’s more or less difficult? Well, Iâ€™m not sure I can even sort out the problematics of the methodology, but here goes:
- Blizzard would have to buy into this. Weâ€™d need them to help set up and design the test as it would need to involve certain game mechanics like allowing the same group of players to do two versions of the fight during the same period (to help minimise the â€˜they had 500 wipes on the boss in 25-man but only 32 wipes on the 10-man versionâ€™ disparity).
- Weâ€™d need the same group of players, or at least as closely similar as possible. This relates to a lesser extent to class, spec, and gear, and to a greater extent to skill set.
- Weâ€™d need to run the test concurrently, or as close to concurrently as possible. To keep things fair (and avoid a stacking of wipes or attempts on one raid size) the test should be run simultaneously, which makes the previous element difficult to achieve unless we haveâ€¦
- Cloning. Yes, weâ€™d probably need to clone the raid group.
I donâ€™t mean to be a smarty pants here but I think ascertaining complete, unquestioned parity that everyone will be happy with may require cloning. And that may take a while for us to develop. But maybe one of you programming geniuses out there can design a simulation of the fights using virtual raiders… that could work. But Iâ€™d rather we invented teleportation first, honestlyâ€¦
So from where I sit I believe this debate about ‘what raid size is more difficult or worthwhile’ seems like a somewhat futile endeavour. It will always come up as long as Blizzard opts to use this financially prudent approach to raid instance/boss design. Having to face the exact ‘same’ (sameness here referring to the fact that the boss does look the same and have the same name, but ‘same’ also hinting at the fact that it’s been adjusted to accommodate the two raid sizes and thus not exactly the same) boss in the exact same location but with two different raid size groups will always cause us to wonder what’s more legitimate or important as far as the difficulty issue goes. Comparison appears inevitable. And after all, difficulty is paramount when it comes to valuing the raid bosses. The competitive core of raiding wants to ‘win’ the race on what is considered the more difficult version of the most difficult fight. I believe that’s viewed as more satisfying. And for all intensive purposes, the more ‘difficult’ way to do it appears to be viewed as the 25-man raid composition. Whether thatâ€™s true or not is impossible to determine, but we do make a lot of decisions based on what we think about something versus what is actually happening. I think another reason this debate is alive and well is due to how Blizzard has opted to give achievements and, as a result, how player-run ranking sites lump together the 25-man and 10-man raiding guilds. And while the latter can be addressed by these sites to some extent, the former issue is really up to Blizzard and I honestly have no idea if they’d put any priority into resolving that particular issue.
And what we’re not even factoring into the ‘difficulty’ debate are things like skill, experience, play schedule preference, social commitments, raid composition, and other ‘messy’, intangible, and unpredictable details. Certainly something may seem a lot harder to master if I spend maybe 5 hours a month devoted to it versus if I spend 5 hours a night on it.
I would rather not engage in the heavy debate here about the 25- vs. 10-man raid but I think it’s interesting and probably inevitable that it will keep coming up for us–which is why I’ve posted all of this here. I did like what Synti wrote in one of the Paragon blogs over the 10/25 man debate in relation to how 10-man raiding keeps being regarded: “The competition in that bracket… is still in its infancy.” Maybe we just need to settle down and let 10-man raiding be 10-man raiding and 25-man be 25-man and stop trying to compare them or debate them. But… thatâ€™s too easy, isnâ€™t it?
Iâ€™ll probably post more about this, but wanted to just get these initial thoughts down.
Tragedy in Norway and An Unwelcome Link to Gaming
First of all whenever a human being chooses to perpetuate acts of such violence such as what occurred on Friday in Norway, it is deeply saddening. Iâ€™ve spent quite some time in Norway myself and its calm and beauty are notable, as well as its good-natured and down-to-earth people. (My profile photo above was taken there.) It feels particularly disappointing that in a place that is regarded as so developed and advanced (according to the UN, Norway had the top-ranked Human Development Index in the world in 2010: http://hdrstats.undp.org/en/countries/profiles/NOR.html), something like this could happen. I suppose it just proves (as many would remind me) that nowhere is immune. And add to this the fact that Iâ€™ve spent my time in recent years studying a fun and uplifting thing like a gameâ€”with its environment that is all about community, game play, skill, competition, and teamworkâ€”and when I learned that the suspect in custody had manipulated (in his rambling â€˜manifestoâ€™) WoW gameplay and even suggested using it as a kind of â€˜coverâ€™ while planning his activities, well I admit I was disheartened. We have a hard enough time providing the non-gaming world with a realistic picture of what the gaming community is really like (with its pros and cons, not just the cons), and this kind of madness could potentially just reinforce the anti-gaming sentiment thatâ€™s alive and well out there. Of course, the attack suspect made other equally outrageous suggestionsâ€”like pretending you are questioning your sexual identity as a way to get people to â€˜leave you aloneâ€™ or investing in a farm in order to acquire goods in an allegedly legitimate wayâ€”so I ought not to be overly disturbed by his links to gaming, but it is still disappointing. Iâ€™m sure the media will spend more time on it at some point, but so far the bigger, more troubling elements of his actions appear to be taking centre stage. What a horrible, sad thing.